Expo targets local business

The 14th annual Chamber of Commerce Business Expo takes place this October 12 to 14 at the Lions Centre, with the focus on encouraging people to buy locally.

‘The whole noble purpose of this show is to really ensure that business is thriving in the country,’ said Chamber of Commerce CEO Wil Pineau at a press conference on Monday to announce the Expo.

‘The idea is to really showcase that the country has a lot to offer in terms of shopping locally.

‘There’s so much emphasis in some cases on going abroad for shopping and that really doesn’t benefit our Cayman Islands’ economy at all. It’s so important that this show showcases all the opportunities there are for reasonably priced items that can be bought locally.

‘When you support local business and the establishment of new businesses you create jobs and you create opportunities for the local people.’

Some of the improvements in line for this year, outlined by Brian Barnes, co-chairman of this year’s Expo Task Force and Joanne Diaz-Berry, programmes coordinator, include:

• More varied sponsorships with three premier sponsors (already secured), nine major sponsors and supporting sponsors;

• All inclusive sponsorship packages;

• Greater emphasis on small business participation;

• Well organised floor plan (divided by industry sectors);

• Presentation and seminars in air conditioned clubhouse for all sponsors;

• Special business grand opening;

• Extended hours: Thursday 12 Oct, 5.30 -9pm; Friday, 13 Oct, 12pm – 9pm; Saturday 14 Oct, 9am to 5pm;

• Increased security and parking arrangements;

• Improvements at Lions Centre since Hurricane Ivan (with a new roof and bathroom facilities).

‘Based on feedback from exhibitors and the public we’ve introduced some significant changes to make both the visitors’ experience more enjoyable as well as getting maximum returns for the exhibitors,’ said Mr. Pineau.

Last year there were about 50 businesses involved with an estimated attendance of around 6,000.

But real proof of the entire event is sales, Mr. Pineau said.

‘We’re talking about a business selling its products and services. At the end of the day there were car sales people there that sold more than 20 new cars at our show. So equate that into an economic figure and you’ll see the impact that our show has on the lives of businesses.’

With regard to targeting smaller businesses, Mr. Pineau said this year the various industry sectors will be grouped together in the floor plan. Each of these industry sectors, he said, will be contacted specifically either by phone or fax.

‘Really the whole point of this is to try to create a true shopping experience for our visitors. The show is only eight weeks before Christmas so it’s a great opportunity for both small and medium sized businesses to put their items out for display.

Since the show’s inception in the early 1990s, millions of dollars of business has been conducted from it, said Mr. Pineau.

‘More than 30 new businesses have launched at the expo since we first started it in the early ’90s and I’m pleased to say that many of those businesses that have launched have become medium size businesses.’ He gave an example of Icoa Chocolates, which started as very small operation producing chocolates, and it has now gone into the restaurant business and other food items.

‘That’s just one example of the effectiveness of the expo in getting a message out to people,’ he commented.

Since its beginnings, the show has evolved into the island’s largest business showcase and is now at the Lions Centre each year, a facility which itself has seen significant improvements over the course of the event.

Now, many larger companies use this event as a signature event every year, from the telecom companies to retail outlets, they put this in their budget every year, said Mr. Pineau.

Children will not be permitted at this year’s grand opening night, as it will feature alcohol.

Ms Diaz-Berry added that the opening night is also focused on conducting business and children will be welcome Friday and Saturday.

On opening night sponsors can invite their best customers to join them for a white glove service evening with hors d’oeuvres and wine.

As a not-for-profit organisation, the Chamber has to cover costs and ensure they break even every year, so the whole purpose of the Expo is to give its members the opportunity to showcase their products at an affordable price, Mr. Pineau noted.

Premier sponsor (six booths) costs $12,500;

Major sponsor (four booths) costs $6,500;

Supporting sponsor (one booth) $750, or (two booths) $1,250;

Contact the Chamber at 949-8090 if interested in participating.

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